Family, Love, and Loss on September 11

I remember waking up on my own around 7 a.m. (central time) on Tuesday, September 11, 2001. I looked at my clock, and I was confused. Normally, my dad was taking us out of door to school at this time. However, no one woke me up that morning. I heard footsteps coming up the stairs and heard the knock on my door. My dad told me to get dressed and come downstairs.

I walked down the steps leading to the lower level of the house we were living in while I was in middle school. I was in seventh grade at the time. I saw my brother and sister sitting on the couch, and my dad told me to sit with them. He sat on the edge of the coffee table with a strange look on his face. As I sat down, my dad spoke very softly.

“Guys, Grandmar died… she shot herself.” And, with that, he leaned… no, it wasn’t quite a lean. It was more like falling, as if he collapsed. He cried with us. He had been holding it in all morning until we were awake.

I’d never seen my dad cry before. I don’t want to see it again. It may have been the type of breakdown he’d been holding in for a while. Grandmar – my grandmother, and his mother, it was short for “Grandmother Marva” – had been dealing with alcoholism and depression for a while by that point. This wasn’t something we were expecting by any means, but her struggle had been something we’d seen for a while. It wasn’t until I was older that I realized just how much she struggled throughout her life.

She was an amazing woman, my grandmother. You could not find anyone with more love in her heart than she did. Her family meant everything to her, and she was my favorite person in the world. To this day, I regret that my wife and my daughter will never be able to meet her in this life.

We cried for what seemed like forever. Finally, wanting to escape just how terrible that morning was, I turned on the TV. That was a mistake.

I saw footage of a building smoking, and talks of an explosion. It seemed like no matter what channel I changed it to, there it was. People were coming in and out of our house, and where we should have been mourning, we were glued to the tragic scene unfolding on TV. I was heartbroken at my loss, and then it hit me that there are so many people who will feel a different kind of horror as they hear about their loss.

September 11, 2001, was a terrible day. The worst day I can remember. So much stuff went absolutely to hell that day that I wondered, albeit briefly, how hard it would be to feel happy again. There was nothing I could do for the people in New York or Washington D.C., but I felt like praying wasn’t enough.

That day, a devastating act took place on American soil. Everyone has a different story about it. It’s the JFK Assassination of my generation, and it’s a day that the world changed forever. I tell the story of my grandmother on this day because, while I couldn’t do anything for anyone then, I can do something now. Everyone deals with something, sometime, that seems like it’s too much. That is the point where we as Christians and generally good people can step in and lend them a shoulder at the bare minimum. No matter what happened that day, or any other day before or after it, we have to help each other push through it and persevere.

If you know someone who is in a dark place, lend them a hand, a shoulder, or even an ear. Help them in any way you can. Life is much too important to let it get thrown away by a senseless act of terror or within a moment of grief and self-doubt.